Diesel Socks

Diesel Socks. An excellent name for a rock band? Agreed, but stay with me.

I tootled on down to Astoria this past Friday, full of turkey and ambitions to knock out about twenty projects that realistically will take a month to complete. I’m okay with failing utterly on most of my goals and I did get some good work done. But life kept happening, distracting me from my noble intentions. Stupid life.

First on the agenda was to completely remove the last of the hardware from our increasingly blank equipment panel in the engine room. All that was left were  the fuel filters and the raw water strainer. Once those were off, I applied BligeKote to those last areas and let that dry over night.

Tabula Rasa

While the BilgeKote fumes worked their magic on my little grey cells, I disassembled the Racor 120 fuel filters and cleaned them up as best I could. These filters are perfectly serviceable and with new A1 fuel line would protect our new engine well. But I really like the drop in cartridge style filters like the Racor 500s. They are much easier to replace and visually inspect. It has also been pointed out that the cartridges are much cheaper.

My first world problem. Keep these perfectly fine filters or replace them with even better ones.

Now doubt is creeping in. Should I reinstall these now and make do or buy the new ones and be done with it? Of course, until I can make that decision, I can’t put the existing units back on my pretty white wall.

Okay, let’s forget the fuel filters. I’ll just put the raw water strainer back on after the paint dries. At least one thing will be reinstalled before I leave. But… What if the raw water inlet is further forward than the strainer outlet? Then the hose will make a tortuous bend and my life will be ruined! I can’t possibly make so momentous a decision as the location of the raw water strainer without investigating the Beta Marine drawings and researching optimal height above/below the waterline,  plus leering over current engine installations. Before you know it, it’s one in the morning and all I’ve done is paint about two square feet of a wall.

Diesel Socks? Oh, right. One of the things Melissa and I have really enjoyed on Andromeda is the Sig Marine Diesel Heater. It is mounted on the forward bulkhead in the saloon and just makes the whole boat a warm, dry oasis in the midst of a howling, rainy Astoria winter.

So, while pouring over filters, strainers and engine data, the little diesel heater kept me company. When I went to bed, I turned down the heat and drifted off to sleep knowing that a storm was blowing in from the Pacific and already feeling, and hearing the wind singing in our rigging. I have installed a brand new CO detector right by the heater so that danger is mitigated but I did not anticipate what would happen next.

As the wind increased through the night (a max speed of 44 knots at 3:00 AM), a down draft blew out the fire in the heater. That isn’t too big of a deal except that in the morning it was rather cold and the burner had half a cup of unburned fuel standing in it. Now my to-do list suddenly includes clearing the fuel from the system and trying to re-light the heater. And making coffee.

For the uninitiated, diesel heaters are pretty safe and simple, but they can be messy. When you try to drain half a cup of oil from the heater, four ounces go into the container, four ounces go under the container and the rest goes onto your hands, hair, underpants and the tip of your nose. After changing underpants, I tried to restart the fire with a now relatively empty burner. Alas, the continued high winds kept blowing the feeble flame out before it could heat the chamber sufficiently for proper combustion.

The culprit.

Looking inside, I could see that there was a lot of carbon build up in there. Since a warm fire seemed to be off the table, I elected to remove the burner and take it home for a good cleaning. That will surely fix this problem in the future and I will once again be productively working on the boat.

After removing a few screws and then re-installing those screws so that I could remove the right screws, the burner came away from the heater. Immediately the remaining four ounces of fuel left inside began to leak on to me, my fresh underpants and the sole of the boat. I quickly placed a plastic trash bag under the burner to gain time and figure out how to get this mess out of my boat. Hopping up into the cockpit, I grabbed a five gallon bucket and put the burner inside and placed it back in the cockpit.

Now turning my attention to the carnage I had wrought, I noticed little shiny dabs of oily spots all over the sole of the salon and galley. I had managed to step in a nice puddle of fuel and then track it through the middle third of the boat thereby distributing the last four ounces of fuel from the burner. That was my last pair of socks.

I will say that diesel does impart a lustrous shine on old teak and holly soles. But it just doesn’t feel safe to have a slippery, combustible oil on our sole. So I cleaned that mess up and tried to salvage my day by installing a new ABYC compliant 30 amp shore power breaker.

I shall end this post by showing you that I did clean the burner and it was way over due. I now suspect that the extraordinary carbon buildup inside the burner was largely responsible for its inability to efficiently burn. I am looking forward to re-installing everything and once again enjoying our cozy little fireplace.

The black pile of rock is most of the carbon build up that I chipped and ground from inside the now clean burner.

Next weekend I will start anew. Fresh socks? Check. Fresh underpants? Check. 2 projects down, 18 to go.


17 thoughts on “Diesel Socks

  1. Keep the old Racors. How many of the cheaper filters would you have to buy to make up for the up-front cost of the new filter housing? Probably more than you’ll use in your lifetime unless your tanks are full of water, dirt, and bugs.

  2. I am reminded by that 2006 Styx song “Nothing ever goes as Planned”! I hate trying to decide issues like your issue with the Filtration system… Usually though, if I have enough time to let it simmer in my brain awhile, I can comfortably decide on a course of action…. I have had my my own “not going as planned” issues I will be writing about soon…. Still, I have to say, I ENJOY working on the boat, even if it does cost money, time and effort. I am thoroughly enjoying reading about your escapades on Andromeda! “Keep calm and re-fit on!”

  3. Before you do anymore work on Andromeda you need to get a skin diving suit and a sturdy cod piece! Thanks for the laugh of my day.

  4. upgrade. brand new expensive engine and you’re re using a filter? And the new one has cheaper replacements parts that are easier to change? No brainer. Especially with Melissa being quite capable. with the easier filters it becomes something easily manageable for both of you should the need arise.
    but then, it’s always easy to spend some one else’s money… Still, my geeky side always goes for the best hardware first.

  5. Regarding fuel filtration.
    Another option would be to go to other filters say Fleetguard from the commercial side. The heads can be surprisingly cheap and the spin on filters are not too outrageously priced.

    The head 142784S ~$20, no fittings or mounting bracket, no fitting for vacuum gauge.
    Alternatively head 3914857S ~$30, same but with 3rd hole for vacuum gauge. (Price may be wrong, few sellers on the net.)
    The spin on filters are between $15 and $35, depending on type. Those are roughly Racor 1000 equivalents.

    Fuel filter and water separator FS1009 , ~$25.
    Or if you want a clear bowl the FS1015, ~$30.
    Or replace the FS1009 with the FS19596 for ~$30, even finer and with a water contact, required for common rail diesels and exceeding than the filter on the engine.

    Add a DIY bracket an it could be an relatively inexpensive route to much higher filter capacity. If the current cartridges are really $60 a pop you could get a new filter and head for less. 😉 A bit of a problem may be filter size. They are tall, say 14″ with head.
    If you want to go two stage add a FS19513 as a crud filter, ~$16. That one uses a different thread, and should use head 3833199S for ~$44.

    The biggest drawback for me is Cummins information policy. No data sheets for mortals… Still, they are used on current engines which require high flow and very high fuel quality – and the low price of the heads makes them attractive.

    • If I were starting from scratch, I still think I would go with the Racor 500FS. The ease of changing filters is a big plus. I also like to have a clear bowl for spot checking water and sediment.

      I checked out the Fleetguard filters and you are right, they are quite inexpensive relative to the Parker/Racor filters. I paid about $30 each for the 10 micron R24T filters. The height might be an issue for some locations but fortunately, I have plenty of room.

      While scrounging for bolts, I found two more heads and three more bowls for the Racor filters I already have. theoretically, I could be running two sets of two filters each ready to filter the hell of whatever comes out of the tank.

  6. Going two stage adds filter surface and holding capacity. If you already have the parts and the room, why not? Esp. if you already have a stash of coarse filters.

    If you find a fuel vacuum gauge, preferably with drag needle, remember that it is just teed into the engine side of the filter. So if you only find one you could still use it to monitor your active set of filters. Sure, a gauge for each filter would be nice but they are kind of pricey.

    Since you are planning to replace fuel lines, also take a close look at the tanks. Empty them if at all possible, then get the crud at the bottom with a longer standpipe. A large inspection opening or a boroscope would be nice but simple usb inspection cameras are cheap. Then you’ll know if there are problems in store for you once the seastate gets a bit shaky. Also, everything you remove now won’t clog filters later. =)

    The new and interesting part for me about Fleetguard were the cheap heads which seem have started as replacement parts for on engine filters.

    • The tanks were polished before we bought the boat but I would like to see the condition of the fuel. In our weather it doesn’t take long for enough water to collect in the tanks and provide an environment for growth.

      I will look into a vacuum gauge. I know they can be handy for detecting impending fuel issues.

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